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The Wreck of DKM Bismarck − A Marine Forensics Analysis 1 The ...

The Wreck of DKM Bismarck − A Marine Forensics Analysis 1 The ...

The

The Wreck of DKM Bismarck A Marine Forensics Analysis guns by more than 5,000 meters.) Painfully aware of the vulnerability of the Hood, the British were attempting to close the range and lessen the risk of destruction resulting from plunging fire. Less than ten minutes after opening fire, Hood blew up and sank, destroyed by 381-mm shellfire which penetrated to and detonated her magazines. The ammunition on Hood was destroyed by deflagration intense burning (of some 112 tons of cordite) with no means to dissipate its energy vertically or horizontally which wrecked the Hood’s hull structure, causing the ship to break apart into two sections before beginning its plunge to the sea bed. A KEY HIT ON THE BISMARCK’s BOW Abeam of the capstans on the forecastle of Bismarck is a large oblique-shaped hole in the starboard side, above the water line and Batteriedeck 6 and forward of the 60-mm splinter belt. It occurs just above the forward edge of a faded painted fake bow wave. The hole is clearly bent outward, apparently from the effects of a shell passing through the ship from the port side 7 . An elongated hole in the deck above was first thought to be the entry hole for this round, but careful measurement indicates the two holes are unrelated. The entry hole on the port side was not imaged, as there were a number of shell holes noted in the area where the shell was believed to have entered. The exit hole is consistent with a trajectory through the bow with an angle of fall of about 15 degrees and a shell path from astern. This is consistent with the expected angle of fall for a shell fired by Prince of Wales at a range of about 16,000 meters refer to Table 2. Table 2 Range Table Data for the 356-mm Gun 8 Range Angle of Fall Striking Velocity 13,720 meters 11.5 degrees 526 meters per second 18,290 meters 18.2 degrees 476 meters per second The shell’s path was an oblique one from port to starboard across Compartments XX and XXI; the second, third, and fourth watertight compartments aft of the forward perpendicular (XX, XXI, and XXII) were damaged by fragments caused by the passage of this heavy projectile through the ship. The entry hole is above the Batteriedeck, while the exit hole, above that deck or near that deck’s intersection with the side shell. The plating around the exit hole is bent outward. The condition of the exit hole in the Bismarck’s starboard bow supports the judgment that the shell passed through the ship without exploding 9 . Compartments XX and XXI are roughly centered on the fore capstans, which correspond perfectly to the exit hole. Since the exit hole was slightly above the waterline but was within the bow wave, water flowed in and eventually flooded compartments on the Upper, Middle and Lower Platform Decks. The ship’s trim down by the bow aggravated this problem. The reserve oil tanks were located in way of the shell trajectory, but below the Middle Platform Deck. Hence we believe that none of the reserve tanks were affected by this shell’s trajectory. If there was a 6 This is the Second Deck in the US Navy. 7 LT Gerhard Junack mentioned in correspondence with William Garzke that the shell passed through the ship without exploding. We believe it may have detonated in the water adjacent to the ship. 8 John Campbell. Naval Weapons of World War Two. London: Conway Maritime Press, Ltd., 1985. 9 Admiral Lütjens reported this in a message after the battle was over. 6

The Wreck of DKM Bismarck A Marine Forensics Analysis loss of fuel in this area of the ship, then it must have come from shell or ship fragments that severed pipes to these tanks and damaged structure in the deck or platform over these tanks. Such damage would mean that the shell may have exploded within the bow structure in the vicinity of the exit hole (which appears unlikely) or more probably from fragments associated with the shell’s passage through the ship. It should be noted that when Bismarck refueled for this mission on 18 May, a fuel hose broke. Since time was spent in cleaning up the spill, the reserve fuel oil tanks were probably the last ones that would be filled. Inexplicably, Admiral Lütjens did not complete the refueling evolution after the loss of time resulting from the parted fuel hose incident. Bismarck left Gotenhafen (now Gdynia) with 200 tons of fuel less than full load capacity. These reserve fuel tanks were intended for Bismarck’s consorts. The pump room for them was located outside the armored citadel. In an emergency, of course, this fuel could have been used by the battleship. To retrieve the oil in the reserve oil tanks, the Bismarck’s damage control team devised a plan to run a refueling hose over the main deck to the forward tanks, so the problem was isolation, not rupture of these tanks. Observers aboard Prinz Eugen reported oil on both sides of Bismarck's wake. Some of the reserve oil tanks could have been holed by fragments caused by this hit in the bow. The damage in Compartment XXI was examined by LT Karl-Ludwig Richter, second engineer officer of Damage Control Central. Richter noted that there was about a meter of water on the Batteriedeck level 10 . The main bulkhead between Compartments XX and XXI and Compartments XXI and XXII were holed and no longer watertight. A gaping hole about a meter in diameter was torn in the ship's starboard hull and another hole of similar size was made in the port side plating. This was confirmed by James Cameron’s survey. The 356-mm shell passed through Compartments XXI and XXII, with fragments rupturing two emergency fuel tanks and flooding the forward pump room, where manifolds to the fuel and ballast tanks were located. Bismarck began to lose what little fuel remained in those forward tanks. The battleship now had as much as 1,000 tons of seawater in her bow. The question as to how much fuel oil was lost from this area of the ship has never been determined. The reserve fuel tanks were located below the Middle Platform Deck with a pipe tunnel running along the centerline of the ship to port. Was a fuel line, air vent piping, or sounding tube severed? Did downflooding prevent access to valves, manifolds, or pumps used to remove or stow fuel? Did downflooding in vent pipes, sounding tubes, or fill piping contaminate the fuel? Another visit to the wreck to examine the inner spaces may resolve this enigma. Counter-flooding voids, provided to allow counter-flooding to compensate for list and trim due to damage below the waterline and resultant flooding, were filled to starboard, according to information provided to author William Garzke by Seaman Josef Statz 11 . 10 From German Battleship Bismarck, Interrogation of Survivors, CB4051 (24), page 13. Although LT Richter was not a survivor, several survivors who were damage control specialists recalled his report of the damage in the bow. 11 Josef Statz, with relevant draftsman experience (Lübeck Shipyard) prior to his naval service, was assigned to Damage Control Central, which was supervised by the Executive Officer, CDR Hans Oels. 7

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